Google is regarded as not only the world’s number one search engine but also the most powerful. The ease of just typing a couple of words about what you are looking for and hey presto, lots of results appear from ever corner of the cyber globe. However, the problem is that as of the March 2018 there were over 1.3 billion web sites with over 5 billion pages – the results of a search can take a while to sort through to find exactly what you want.
Google has a number of commands that when added to your search can help filter the results down – not many people know to use all of them.
This guide will look at the following 6 commands. They can be added/combined with your normal search words:
The easiest way is to try the commands yourself – simply have a browser tab open at https://www.google.co.uk while reading this guide.
The ” ” Command
When search words are typed in to Google, there is an assumption of ‘or’ in the command structure. i.e the search equality and diversity policy will search all websites for any references to any of the words ‘equality’ or ‘diversity’ or ‘policy’. To appear in the results, only one of the words has to be present. This results in over 138 million pages appearing in the results.
However, if you are actually searching specifically for equality and diversity policies, wrap the search in “ (quotes). This changes the search from looking for any of the individual words you specify, to searching the exact phrase. Be careful though, wrapping the entire search in quotes can sometimes be too specific.
“equality and diversity policy” gives only 213,000 results
“equality and diversity” policy i.e taking the word policy out of the quotes gives 11.2 million results as the search is now less specific.
The – (Minus) Command
The – command excludes results containing whatever immediately follows the – symbol.
Oxford This search produces all sites with the word ‘Oxford’ (639 million pages)
Oxford -University This search produces all sites with the word ‘Oxford’ in but excludes any with the word ‘University’ in (510 million pages)
The – command is most effective when combined other commands below.
The ‘Site:’ Command
The site: command will restrict the search and subsequent results to a particular country, domain or even website. The best way to read a web address is right to left, taking note of the full stops:
.uk – Signifies the UK. In a Google search, type site:.uk This will give all web pages that end in .uk. Search site:.uk fees This will search all websites ending in .uk for the word ‘fees’.
.ac.uk – Signifies UK academic websites. Searching site:.ac.uk fees will search and return all UK academic websites containing the word ‘fees’
ox.ac.uk – Signifies only Oxford academic websites. Searching site:.ox.ac.uk fees will search and return only Oxford academic websites containing the word ‘fees’
bnc.ox.ac.uk – Signifies Brasenose websites. Searching site:.bnc.ox.ac.uk fees will search all Brasenose websites for the word ‘fees’
Site:xx where xx is the 2 letter country code, limits results to only website in a specific country. A list of all two letter country domain codes can be found here:
E.g. If you would like to see what the Australian media are saying on Brexit, search Site:.au Brexit News The results are then limited to only Australian websites containing the words ‘Brexit’ or ‘News’ .
Other useful examples can be limiting results to UK government websites or maybe Oxford council sites:
site:.gov.uk driving license
site:.oxford.gov.uk bin collections
Combining the site: command with the – & “ commands can be used to exclude results from a particular website, domain or country. To look for external sites mentioning Brasenose College, it is a good idea to exclude results from either Brasenose or maybe even all Oxford academic websites.
-site:bnc.ox.ac.uk “Brasenose College” This looks for all mentions of the exact phrase ‘Brasenose College’, excluding all results found on Brasenose websites.
-site:ox.ac.uk “Brasenose College” This looks for all mentions of the exact phrase ‘Brasenose College’, excluding results found on any Oxford academic websites.
The ‘Filetype:’ Command
The filetype: command limits search results (but not the search itself – see ‘intext:‘ command below) to specific types of files. e.g. All results are PDF files only.
Search filetype:pdf statutes This will search all sites for the word ‘statutes’ and list only PDF files in the results. Below is a list of common file types:
filetype:pdf is PDF Files
filetype:doc is an old style Microsoft Word document
filetype:docx is is a new style Microsoft Word document
filetype:xls is an old style Microsoft Excel file
filetype:xlsx is is a new style Microsoft Excel file
filetype:ppt is an old style PowerPoint presentation file
filetype:pptx is is a new style PowerPoint presentation file
filetype:jpg is a photo file
To search multiple file types, e.g. Both types of Word document (.doc & .docx), use the OR command
e.g. filetype:doc OR filetype:docx Statutes will search for any .doc or docx files containing the word Statutes.
If you would like review the equality and diversity policies of various Oxford academic institutions, combine the ‘filetype:’, ‘site:’ and ” ” commands:
filetype:pdf site:ox.ac.uk “equality and diversity policy” returns 115 PDF files from Oxford academic sites containing the exact phrase “equality and diversity policy”
filetype:pdf site:ox.ac.uk “equality and diversity” policy returns 1,300+ PDF files due to taking the word ‘policy’ out of the ” (quotes).
filetype:pdf site:bnc.ox.ac.uk “equality and diversity policy” will search all BNC websites (e.g. both the main and staff websites) for PDFs with the exact phrase “equality and diversity policy” .
If you were looking for inspiration for a PowerPoint presentation on alumni communications within the UK academic sector
filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx site:.ac.uk alumni communications This will return only PowerPoint presentation files hosted on UK academic websites that contain the words ‘alumni’ or ‘communications’
The ‘Intext:’ and ‘Allintext:’ Commands
When Google searches sites for a specific word, it includes everything – all the links, page titles, URLs etc. This can cause unnecessary results. The intext: command limits the search to purely the webpage content or the contents of a file (e.g. PDF) and excludes all other properties a webpage may hold.
Brasenose A standard search containing just the word Brasenose produces over 487,000 results. It searches everything for word ‘Brasenose’.
intext:Brasenose produces 392,000 results. It searched only the body of webages and files for the word ‘Brasenose’.
The intext commnad only allows for one word to be searched. If you require multiple words, the allintext command in used
allintext:famous brasenose alumni will look for websites or files with any of the three words in the actual content/body of the website/files.
allintext:”famous brasenose alumni” Adding the ” (quotes) command will search bodies of websites for the exact phrase ‘famous brasenose alumni’ and gives only 2 results!
The ‘inurl:’ and ‘allinurl:’ Commands
As previously mentioned, a standard Google search includes results of everywhere the search term is founds – all the content, links, page titles, URLs etc. The ‘inurl:’ command searches only URL (website) addresses. All Web enabled devices of the same model will all have the same login portal – this command allows you to find devices. The example below is of a particular webcam.
inurl:view/view.shtml This finds all the web portals of a particular type of web camera. As the first page of results show, clicking through and selecting live view show not all have a passwords set :-(. Particularly useful for finding open CCTV systems protecting homes and businesses <cough> should you ever need to </cough>.
The ‘allinurl:‘ command is for if you wish to search multiple terms at once.
Like all Google commands, the ‘inurl:’ can be combined with other commands.
inurl:login site:ox.ac.uk intext:alumni This searches for all Oxford academic based pages that have a URL (web address) that contains the word login and that also has the word alumni in the body of the page. i.e. The results gives you a list of all Oxford academic alumni login pages.